FRANKFORT, Ky. – As the Commonwealth closes out Kentucky Bourbon Heritage Month, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association today announced that the state’s aging Bourbon inventory has reached 7.5 million barrels, the most since 1972.
The total number of all barrels – including Bourbon, brandy and other spirits – reached 8.1 million, the most since 1971. The tax assessed value also hit a record high – $3 billion – as did the amount of barrel taxes paid by distillers at $23 million.
With 4.4 million people living in Kentucky, KDA President Eric Gregory said the iconic industry is close to having two barrels of spirits for every man, woman and child in the state. “More than a billion dollars in investment is scheduled to come online in the next few years, so we hope to hit that mark pretty quickly.”
Gregory said these figures also could rise with the recent passage of the new “Bourbon Without Borders” law that allows distillery visitors to ship souvenir bottles home. “Kentucky’s economy will benefit as more states pass similar reciprocal laws, allowing us to send our signature spirit around the country,” he said.
However, Gregory cautioned that these numbers were reported to the state months before several countries enacted retaliatory tariffs on Bourbon. “We are still working to understand the actual impact of those tariffs, and remain hopeful that it’s a short-term issue that will be resolved soon,” he said.
Amounts include all distilleries in Kentucky compiled from state Department of Revenue data as of Jan. 1, 2018. Founded in 1880, The KDA represents 39 of the state’s distilleries, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distillers that are building upon centuries of craftsmanship and tradition.
Other key facts form the annual barrel reports include:
- Production in 2017 was 1,715,541 barrels. That’s only the second time since 1968 that distillers filled at least 1.7 million barrels, and it’s an increase of 129,000 barrels produced in 2016.
- The tax-assessed value of $3 billion is the first time ever that barrels have reached that mark, and it’s an increase of $456 million over the previous year.
- Barrel taxes had never reached the $20 million mark before, let alone $23 million. Revenue from this tax funds education, public safety and other needs in local communities where barrels are stored.
Kentucky Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a booming $8.5 billion economic and tourism engine that generates as many as 17,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $800 million and pours $825 million into tax coffers each year.
Attendance at the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour distilleries has skyrocketed by 314 percent in the last 10 years. Visitors made more than 1.2 million stops at participating distilleries last year, the second straight year topping that milestone.
In addition, the industry is in the middle of a $1.2 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism centers to expanded production facilities, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky Bourbon. Visit www.kybourbon.com and www.kybourbontrail.com to learn more.
Despite these record-breaking statistics, Gregory said there’s still much work to be done.
Kentucky’s Bourbon industry remains the highest-taxed of all 536 manufacturing industries in the state, he said, with seven different taxes accounting for 60 percent of every bottle. Kentucky also is the only place in the world that taxes aging barrels of spirits.
The Bourbon Barrel Reinvestment Credit, passed by the legislature in 2014, sought to offset the discriminatory barrel tax. Gregory said the credit initially worked as intended, with distilleries reinvesting the tax credits into their facilities, which spurred tremendous growth and milestone barrel inventories.
However, barrel taxes are now skyrocketing with the record growth, and the non-refundable tax is far outpacing the amount of corporate income tax credit that’s allowed, particularly since the General Assembly lowered the corporate rate last session, Gregory explained.
“Distillers can’t realize the full benefit of the barrel credit, which means less money they can reinvest for future growth,” he said. “The legislature took a good first step in reforming the tax code earlier this year, but more needs to be done to incentivize our state’s signature industries.
“We are grateful that policymakers recognize the vital role this homegrown industry plays in jobs, revenue and tourism, but we should not have a tax structure that penalizes increased production and capital investment,” Gregory said. “That’s why the barrel tax credit needs to be refundable or transferable.
“Today’s barrel inventory numbers prove the importance of Bourbon to the fabric and future of our state. We look forward to working with state leaders to continue this momentum and strengthen Kentucky’s rightful place as the one, true and authentic home for Bourbon and distilled spirits.”